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Using Automation To Redefine Construction Tech Space

Jaimie Johnston, Board Director and Head of Global Systems And Philip Langley, Board Director, Bryden Wood

Using Automation To Redefine Construction Tech SpaceJaimie Johnston, Board Director and Head of Global Systems

Jaimie Johnston is one of the Board Directors in Bryden Wood. Being a leading thinker on the future of industrialized construction in the UK, he also heads the global systems for the company. His accomplishments for Bryden Woods include the adoption of a manufacturing-like approach that has created high-performing assets on projects in the UK, Europe, and Asia for clients like GlaxoSmithKline and Heathrow Airport. Furthermore, Jamie has authored strategy documents like "Delivery Platforms for Government Assets: Creating a Marketplace for Manufactured Spaces," "Data-Driven Infrastructure: From digital tools to manufactured components," which have been adopted as a key articulation of the UK Government's aspiration to adopt a more manufacturing-led approach to construction.

Philip Langley is also a Board Director at Bryden Wood, leading the creative technologies team. Phil brings several aspects of BIM and computational design—algorithmic design and simulation, linked technology, mixed reality settings, big data analytics, robots, and digital manufacturing, under one roof for the organization. Additionally, he is responsible for bringing in new digital technology techniques that may be utilized by the design and delivery teams, as well as clients and end-users.

What are some of the major challenges and trends that you've seen impacting the construction tech space lately?

Johnston: The last global economic crisis has created sustainability challenges for the construction space. Costs have risen considerably, and both construction and public sector companies have envisioned an amalgamation of physical and digital activities as the option to sail through the crisis. 

Moreover, standardization and repeated usability of designs through the creation of digital libraries have been sought as the necessary option to levitate from the hurdles of economic crisis.

Such developments will provide organizations with access to design libraries, where already successful and established designs will be available. Eventually, it will reduce the cost of an entirely-new design production. Automation is another trend where advancements in computational and algorithmic processes can reduce the intermediate costs of physical activities.

Langley: Automation has presented both benefits and challenges. The automated and end-to-end connected processes help create options to foster innovations. However, as automation inclusion deviates organizations from the traditional processes, most organizations are not ready for disruptive developments. As a result, landing automation within an organization and the entire supply chain space becomes a major hurdle.

What keeps you up at night when it comes to some of the significant plights in the Construction Tech space?

Johnston: Digital Technologies within the construction tech space are undoubtedly beneficial. But, adopting it at scale is a different ball game altogether. Design organizations have initiated the adoption of automation, which has boosted the production speed of designs to a much higher number. Nevertheless, to move in tandem with the benefits of digital technologies in design, the organization's ecosystem—IPs, commercial contractual procurements, and business models—needs rapid development.

Langley: Developing and integrating digital technologies in the construction tech space is not a one and done process. However, various organizations are accessing digital tools and rapidly incorporating them into their systems. Consequently, their systems fail as there is no one-shot success scenario. Instead, using continual development can help them understand the tools and harness their utilities to better the construction projects.

Could you tell us about some of the latest projects you have been working on and some of the technological and process elements you leveraged to make the project successful?

Langley: One of the projects we are working on is related to the standardization of construction design. We have gathered standardized plans and assembly logics and combined them with automation technologies to generate sophisticated algorithms. Then, we have encoded them within a software that can be an intelligent companion for designers when starting any new project.

Over time, it will provide designers with thousands of possible solutions for their projects that can be further developed or scaled as per individual needs. Cloud technologies will also be combined to deploy the software at scale.

For the last 12 months, we have been working on a project for the transport department of London. Unfortunately, London's transportation system has faced a significant bump as vehicle volume has exceeded the tube network capacity across 40 kilometers, resulting in faulty signaling.

While formulating the solutions, we took an off-bit path—incorporating non-traditional tools—and developed a signaling system using automation technology to restrict the issue. Not just that, the solution was also uploaded on open-source platforms so that it can further be used in other projects across different environments and locations. 

What will be your advice to budding and evolving companies?

Johnston: Organizations must avoid having an egoistic or protective nature while dealing with construction designs. Open-source platforms must be utilized as libraries to upload and download standardized designs, which other projects can use later. This will boost the total automation within the entire construction tech sector.

Langley: We need new thoughts and spirits to bring breakthrough changes in traditional design processes. To embrace the ever-evolving technologies, organizations must focus on recruiting tech-savvy and talented individuals who will ultimately help them utilize the latest technological developments.

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